Bupropion vs Chantix

A guide to helping you work with your doctor to decide the right non-nicotine treatment for you

There are two types of smoking cessation products, some contain nicotine, and some don’t.

One type of these are nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, such as gums, lozenges, sprays, and inhalers, work by giving you a small dose of nicotine without all the other dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes.  That way, you can wean yourself off nicotine and withdrawal isn’t so bad. They don’t stop the cravings, though. Most nicotine replacement products are available over-the-counter.

The other smoking cessation products are the prescription-drugs that don’t use nicotine. They change the way your brain works to ease withdrawal symptoms and make you not want to smoke as much or at all. The Food and Drug Administration  (FDA) approved two of these products: Bupropion (brand name: Zyban) and Varenicline (brand name: Chantix). So, let’s take a look at both drugs to help in you to work with your doctor to find the right treatment for you.

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Bupropion is the generic (common or non-branded) name for bupropion hydrochloride, the active ingredient in the branded drug, Zyban.

Originally marketed as an antidepressant drug under the brand name of Wellbutrin, it became apparent that Bupropion was an effective quit-aid, because smokers using it to treat depression also lost interest in smoking. People not planning to quit smoking found themselves stopping with relative ease.

Later, bupropion hydrochloride was given the brand name of Zyban and in 1997, the FDA approved it as a quit-smoking aid.  When used in combination with nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), the chance for long-term success with smoking cessation increases.

It’s important to be monitored by your doctor if you're using both Bupropion and an NRT, as high blood pressure can be a concern.

It’s not clear exactly how bupropion works. Researchers do know that it blocks some of the chemicals in your brain that react with nicotine to make you feel good when you smoke. This will reduce cravings and ease other withdrawal symptoms.

Bupropion seems to especially reduce irritability and concentration problems. It could also help with the urge to overeat while you’re trying to quit.

Like all smoking cessation products, bupropion is recommended only for people who smoke 10 or more cigarettes a day, or about half a pack. Your doctor will probably have you start taking bupropion 1 to 2 weeks before you plan to quit, so it’ll be fully in your system when the time comes.

Most people take bupropion tablets for 12 weeks. 

Your doctor will start you on a 150 mg tablet in the morning, and may or may not increase this to twice a day. Evidence suggests that once-daily dosing is as effective as taking it twice, with fewer side effects.

Bupropion has many side effects, ranging from the common, those you should seek immediate medical attention for, to those that warrant stopping the drug immediately.  The common side effects include dry mouth and trouble sleeping, but these problems tend to go away after you take Bupropion for about a week. You might have anxiety, constipation, skin irritation, or dizziness.  If you think you’re concerned about other possible side effects, talk to your doctor immediately. Also, tell your doctor if you have a history of seizures, because this medication might make you more likely to have a seizure. 



While Bupropion is the generic (common or non-branded) name for bupropion hydrochloride, the active ingredient in the branded drug, Zyban, Chantix is the brand name for the active ingredient, varenicline tartrate, which is also sold under the generic name, Varenicline.  In short, Bupropion is the generic name of the branded drug, Zyban.  Chantix is the brand name for the non-branded drug, Varenicline.

The FDA approved Chantix in 2006 to help people quit smoking. Studies show that taking it makes you two to three times more likely to quit for good.

Chantix works on the same parts of the brain that nicotine does. So, it gives you a good feeling without a cigarette’s harmful chemicals or the addiction. This makes it easier for you to handle withdrawal.

By blocking other chemicals in your brain, the drug also makes smoking less enjoyable. As with bupropion, you’ll start taking it a week or two before you quit. Those last cigarettes won’t be as satisfying as they used to be, so quitting will be easier.

Chantix tablets come in increasing doses, like bupropion. You’ll start off with 0.5 mg for a few days, then go up to 1 mg twice daily.

Like Bupropion, Chantix has many side effects.  The major side effect of concern is an increase in depressed mood, suicidal thoughts, and behavioral changes. If you struggle with depression, or have an unstable psychiatric disorder, this is not the medication for you.  In addition, Chantix can cause vivid dreams, and nausea in some people.


Seek help to find the right quit-aid for you

Both Bupropion and Chantix are used to help people quit smoking, but have different main ingredients.  The major concern for many is that they have many side effects. 

So, it is essential to talk to your doctor to help you find better alternatives to quitting smoking.  You can also get free good support over the phone and help with different ways of quitting, from any of the national quit-smoking organizations, such as the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  Here are their contact details, including toll-free number:



  1. WebMD, What Are the Medicines for Nicotine Withdrawal? [website] 2019,  https://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/understanding-nicotine-withdrawal-treatment#1, (accessed November 2, 2019).
  2. verywellmind, How Zyban Can Help With Quitting Smoking, [website] 2019,  https://www.verywellmind.com/what-should-i-know-about-zyban-as-a-quit-aid-2825342, (accessed November 2, 2019).
  3. NIH, Chantix & Bupropion for Smoking Cessation (ChanBan), [website] 2013,  https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00587769, (accessed November 2, 2019).

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